Dominion dismissed from Stark County voting machine lawsuit
WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A pro-Trump mob breaks into the U.S. Capitol on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
A Stark County judge dismissed Dominion Voter Systems on Friday as party to a lawsuit filed by a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit seeking to reverse the county’s procurement of the company’s machines.
The lawsuit, filed in May by Look Ahead America LLC, steers clear of any explicit allegation that Dominion voting machines were used to defraud the 2020 presidential election.
However, Look Ahead founder Matt Braynard has been touring the county in recent months offering supporting testimony, to no avail, in various forums perpetuating a lie spread by President Donald Trump and his allies that the 2020 election was somehow rigged.
Look Ahead accused the Stark County Board of Elections of violating open meetings laws as it considered its eventual recommendation that the County Commission (which was also dismissed from the lawsuit Friday) buy new machines from Dominion.
In a ruling on a separate lawsuit in May, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered the county commission to heed the board of election’s recommendation. Look Ahead America’s lawsuit sought to block the county from purchasing the machines and stop Dominion from providing them.
Common Pleas Judge Taryn Heath wrote in an order of dismissal that the law “does not extend nearly as far” as Look Ahead seeks. She said Ohio’s Open Meeting Act laws don’t give courts the power to “invalidate” decisions of a body that may have violated the act.
It also doesn’t allow them to invalidate a decision by the county commission, which isn’t even accused of violating any open meetings law, Heath determined.
“Plaintiffs further do not explain how the Open Meetings Act can in any way restrain the commercial activity of a private company [Dominion] several degrees removed from the initial decision of the BOE,” she wrote.
In December, the Stark County Board of Elections recommended the commission purchase new machines from Dominion, the county’s vendor since 2013. The commission struck down the recommendation in March, citing a “potential cloud” hanging over Dominion — namely far-fetched theories pushed by Trump allies claiming that deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez colluded with Dominion to rig an election, and similar outlandish notions.
Dominion has accused several political figures who uttered these theories and media outlets who aired them of libel in several lawsuits.
The board of elections challenged the commission’s dismissal of its recommendation to the Ohio Supreme Court in a separate lawsuit and ultimately won. The high court ordered the commission to purchase the machines — an order the Look Ahead lawsuit sought to invalidate.
“The thing that got the ball rolling was certainly the angst of the moment surrounding Dominion Voter Systems,” said Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, in a previous interview.
Curt Hartman, an attorney representing Look Ahead, said in an email the legal team is still reviewing and assessing the option of an appeal but have not made any final decision.
Dominion declined comment Monday.
One defendant remains on the lawsuit: the Stark County Board of Elections.
Deborah Dawson, an attorney representing the board, said no open meetings laws were violated.
“The alleged Open Meeting Law Violations of the BOE were not really discussed by the Court, and our client, the Stark BOE, has consistently denied the allegations that there were any violations,” she said.
Much about Look Ahead America is shrouded in mystery. According to the IRS, its nonprofit status was automatically revoked in May 2020 for failing to file its tax returns for three consecutive years.
Braynard said in a previous interview it has refiled with the IRS to obtain its 501(c)(3) status and is in the process of back filing its tax returns. He said he expects to raise $1.5 million this year. The only two sources of funding he disclosed were Jim Lamon — a wealthy Arizonan now running for the U.S. Senate — and the Voter Integrity Project, a nonprofit pushing election fraud conspiracies whose website states it has helped Braynard by “arranging a few media hits for him.”
The IRS declined to comment on Look Ahead’s tax status.
Since the elections, Braynard testified alongside Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Arizona; told Georgia lawmakers he found “illegal ballots” in the state; released reports about “illegal ballots” in Wisconsin and elsewhere, and more, according to a recent investigation from Buzzfeed News.
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